Alfred Tennyson, an English poet, born at Somersby, Lincolnshire, in 1809. His father was the Rev. George Clayton Tennyson, rector of Somersby and vicar of Bennington and Grimsby. His mother was a daughter of the Rev. Stephen Fytche, vicar of Louth. Alfred is the third of twelve children. He received his early education from his father, and was sent to Trinity college, Cambridge, where in 1829 he gained the chancellor's medal for a poem in blank verse entitled "Timbuctoo." In 1827, with his brother Charles (who has since become vicar of Grasby and assumed the name of Turner), he had published a small volume entitled " Poems, by Two Brothers." Coleridge expressed the opinion that only the pieces signed " C. T." gave promise of a coming poet. In 1830 Alfred published "Poems, chiefly Lyrical," in which the only striking piece was "Mariana;" but a revised and enlarged edition (1833) contained " The Lady of Shalott," "The May Queen," " (En one," "A Dream of Fair Women," and "The Lotos-Eaters." This volume attracted comparatively little attention.
In 1842 he published "English Idyls, and other Poems " (2 vols.), which contained all that he cared to preserve of the previous volume, and included also "Locksley Hall," " Morte d'Arthur," " The Talking Oak," " The Day-Dream," " The Two Voices," " St. Simeon Stylites," and " Ulysses." Tennyson's acknowledged rank as the first of living poets dates from the publication of these volumes. In 1847 he published " The Princess, a Medley," in blank verse, which has for its theme the question of the proper sphere of woman. The songs that form the interludes were introduced in the second edition. "In Memo-riam," a series of 129 brief elegiac poems, suggested by the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam (see Hallam), and written at intervals since 1833, appeared anonymously in 1850. On Nov. 21, 1850, after the death of Wordsworth, Tennyson was appointed poet laureate. His only notable performances in that capacity are the "Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington" and the " Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaklava," the popularity of each of which has been inversely as its merits.
Both of these were included in the volume entitled "Maud, and other Poems" (1855). " Maud " was so anomalous, both in narrative treatment and metrical construction, that critics and readers were widely at variance concerning it; but there was no dissent from the applause which greeted the "Idyls of the King" (1859), four stories in blank verse, under the titles "Enid," "Vivien," "Elaine," and "Guinevere," drawn from the legends of King Arthur. These began a series which was continued in "The Holy Grail," "Gareth and Lynette," "Pelleas and Etarre," "The Last Tournament," and "The Passing of Arthur " (1869-'72). The whole epic had been foreshadowed in the prelude to the fragment entitled "Morte d'Arthur," which after 30 years found its place in the closing poem of the series. " Enoch Arden, and other Poems " (1864), included "Sea Dreams, an Idyl," for which Tennyson had received £10 a line on its original publication in "Macmillan's Magazine." With the exception of "Tithonus," "The Northern Farmer" (in dialect), and one or two other short pieces, the volume contained nothing worthy of the laureate; but the principal poem met with a wide popularity, and its title has become proverbial, from the supposed peculiarity of its plot. "The Window, or the Songs of the Wrens," written for music by Arthur Sullivan, appeared in 1870, and " Queen Mary, a Drama," in 1875. Tennyson lived at various places, much of the time in London, till 1851, when he married Emily, daughter of Henry Sell-wood, and settled at Farringford, Freshwater, Isle of Wight. In 1869 he removed to Peters-field, Hampshire. Ho has also a residence at Aldworth, Haslemere, Surrey, and is lord of the manors of Grasby and Prior's Freshwater. The university of Oxford conferred on him the degree of D. 0. L. in 1859. Since 1850 his poems have been regularly reprinted in the United States, and two rival editions (New York and Boston, 1871) contain the suppressed pieces of his early volumes, and also some never collect ad by himself.
His "Poems" have been translated into German by W. Herz-berg (Dessau, 1854); "In Memoriam" by R. Waldmuller-Duboc (Hamburg, 2d ed., 1872) and Agnes von Bohlen (Berlin, 1874); and "Enoch Arden" by C. Ilessel (Leipsic, 1874). "Enid" and "Elaine" have been translated into Spanish by Lope Gisbert (1875). His " Idyls of the King" have been illustrated by Dore. D. B. Brightwell has published a concordance to Tennyson's works (London, 1869). - See " Analysis of Tennyson's In Memoriam," by the Rev. F. W. Robertson (1867); "A Study of the Works of Alfred Tennyson," by E. 0. Tanish (1868); and "Victorian Poets," by E. C. Stedman (1875). - Frederick, his elder brother, obtained at Cambridge a prize for a Greek poem in 1828, and in 1854 published "Days and Hours," a volume of poems.